Underneath my yellow skin

What constitutes progress

I’ve been home from the hospital for four weeks, which has made me reflective. That’s twice as long as I was in the hospital, as difficult as that is to believe. It feels both longer and shorter than four weeks simultaneously. On the one hand, I have a hard time believing what happened to me happened at all. On the other, it seems so far away from me. When I read about what happened to me in my brother’s Caring Bridge journal, it’s as if I’m reading about a fictional Minna. It’s partly because I wasn’t awake for it, obviously, but it’s also because I’m back to ‘normal’ with only my stamina still low. It’s hard to believe something traumatic happened to me when all outwardly indicators are gone.

I don’t use the walker at all any longer. Not that I used it in the first place. I brought it with me on my morning constitutional just in case and used it a few times so I wouldn’t have to work as hard walking, but I never *needed* it. I never used the commode my brother put together or the puppy pads. I wore the pull-ups (like Depends) for a month, but never used them. The only thing I use is the shower chair–and that’s just so I can wash my feet. Oh, and when the nursing aide comes to wash my hair. It’s nice to have, though, in case I do want to sit down.

I’ve been frustrated as I might have mentioned before because my progress has slowed to a crawl. As I said before (and this is the humblebrag part), I came back with a vengeance and was probably around 85% of my physical capabilities when I woke up (minus the stamina, obviously. But I don’t consider that part of the physical capability, though it is, really). I may not admit it out loud, but I was pretty proud of myself when the physical therapist (PT), a day after we met, said that she didn’t have anything else to teach me. Remember, they were talking about months of rehab once I left the hospital and were pretty dire about what my abilities would be if I woke up. A big if.


That still floors me, by the way. How close to death I was. Oh, and that I actually died twice. I have to be careful not to lose my compassion for others because it’s too easy for me to think, “Oh, you think that’s a problem? I died. Twice!” Which, by the way, caused me to riff to K about how I wanted to make a series of t-shirt about being the next Jesus Christ to piss off the Christians (Jesus died once? I died twice! Which makes me twice as good.” I decided against it because I don’t need nor want to piss off Christians. I did thirty years ago, but now, I think as long as you’re not hurting anyone, then whatever gets you through the day is fine with me. But it’s still amuses me to think of myself as the next savior. I actually wrote a novel about that, which is neither here nor there.

I shouldn’t be here. It’s sobering to think about that. There were a hundred things that could have tilted the outcome in the other direction. Everything had to align just perfe8ctly in order for me to be here in the shape I am, and yet, here I am. Leaving the hospital two weeks after I went in. No rehab. No home visits except a nurse once a week to take my vitals and a nurse’s aide once a week to wash my hair. Both of which I’m going to end in a week or two. Everyone who sees me is amazed by how, well, “normal” I appear. Honestly, if I didn’t tell you my story when you met me, you’d never know I spent two weeks in the hospital–one of them unconscious.

It’s my stamina that has been the issue and continues to plague me. Today, my brother came over and showed my parents and me a huge park in our sleepy suburb that we never knew existed. It was gigantic and sprawling and kept on going. There was a red suspension bridge maybe three-hundred steps from the parking lot. Possibly four-hundred. That’s how I measure distances these days, by the way. My brother asked if I wanted to try it and I decided to give it a go. I could always turn back if I got tired. I made it to the bridge, but then got suddenly exhausted. I had to stagger my way back, which was not enjoyable.

Now, I’m exhausted and that’s the problem when I push myself too hard. I am fine until suddenly I’m not. There’s very little warning before I slam into the wall and now I don’t want to move at all. Which, admittedly, is fine because I can just sit on my couch eating Hippeas puffs. White cheddar. Nom.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself earlier because I did a whole right side of the Sword Form with a regular wooden sword instead of the toy sword. I also did the first four or five postures (movements, but I call them postures) of the Double Saber Form, right side. During my morning constitutional, I went a bit farther than I had two days ago (I skip Fridays because of the big hair wash) and I added a few more stretches to my taiji routine.  Being able to do a whole Sword Form with the regular wooden sword is a big deal, but now I feel like shit.

I have to remind myself that at the end of the day, I’ve only been home four weeks. Yes, that’s twice as long as I was actually in the hospital, but it’s still not that much time in the long run. I went through something pretty traumatic, no matter how much it doesn’t seem like it from the outside. Even my parents tend to forget and ask me to do things that I probably shouldn’t be doing just yet.

On the one hand, I’m grateful that I came back with so much of myself intact. After all the talk of not being able to walk and talk and even more dire predictions, it was a relief that I didn’t have to put in the work to recover those abilities. Truly, I’ve been so lucky with this whole thing, I feel churlish for even mentioning being disgruntled.

But.

Disgruntled I am. My progress has tapered off to almost nothing (yes, yes, I know I stated my distinct progress earlier, but bear with me) and it’s hard to be in stasis. Or rather, it’s hard to appreciate the progress when I think about how much further I still have to go. And even me being exhausted by a walk that shouldn’t have tired me out is progress in its own way because I was feeling good enough to push it more than I should have.

I’m trying to keep my taiji mantras in mind–no hurry, no worry and I’ve got all the time in the world–but it’s not easy. I’m an impatient person by nature, so this is where my mental taiji comes in handy. I don’t have to get everything back in one day, which is what I need to keep reminding myself. Any progress is good progress and even no progress is ok because it means I’m holding steady. I just have to keep that in mind as best I can.

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